• April 9th, 2020

    Photo: Peter Gatch

    Thank you, as always, for supporting the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. You may be aware that Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act on March 27, 2020. Included in this legislation were several provisions that may change your charitable donations this year. Please consider the following:

    You can now deduct your gift to SUWA, even if you take the standard deduction. The CARES Act allows for up to $300 per taxpayer ($600 for a married couple) in an above-the-line deduction for charitable gifts made in 2020 and claimed on taxes in 2021. This means that you can lower your income tax bill by giving to SUWA today, even if you take the standard deduction on your taxes. Please talk with your accountant to learn more.

    If you itemize deductions, there are new charitable deduction limits. The CARES Act increases the existing cap on charitable cash contributions for those who itemize, raising it from 60% of adjusted gross income to 100% in 2020. Please talk with your accountant to learn more.

    Were you planning to take a required minimum distribution (RMD) from your retirement account in 2020? The CARES Act waives all RMDs for individuals over the age of 70 ½ who own specified retirement accounts in 2020. However, for account owners who began taking their RMDs prior to 2020, you can still choose to send a qualified charitable distribution to SUWA and potentially decrease your tax burden. For more information, please talk with your retirement account administrator or accountant.

    SUWA lacks the expertise to offer tax advice, so please consult a tax professional to determine what options work best for your unique situation.

    Lastly, there are two particularly helpful ways to support SUWA during this time:

    Signing up for monthly giving ensures that the fight to protect wild Utah continues through these challenging times. Monthly giving of any amount is easy and secure; includes all the benefits of membership; and provides SUWA with reliable, year-round funding. To sign up, or for more details, please visit our Monthly Giving page.

    Please consider including SUWA in your estate plans in order to leave a lasting legacy for America’s redrock wilderness. Such plans may also provide tax savings for you or your loved ones. For more information on planned giving, please visit our Planned Giving page, or talk with your financial advisor or attorney. If you have already included SUWA in your estate plans, please let us know by contacting Michelle Martineau, our administrative director, at michelle@suwa.org or by phone at (801) 486-3763.

    If you have any questions, please contact us at membership@suwa.org or (801) 486-3161. Thank you for being part of the movement to protect wild Utah!

    Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance Tax ID: 94-2936961

    Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance Mailing Address: 425 East 100 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84111

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  • April 6th, 2020

    Comments due by April 13th, 2020!

    The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) spends tens of millions of taxpayer dollars destroying hundreds of thousands of acres of native pinyon pine and juniper forests throughout the West each year. In recent years, public input has stopped many of these controversial projects or helped the BLM make better, more scientifically-sound vegetation management decisions that leave pristine, sensitive wilderness-quality lands and habitat intact.

    Now, despite the critical role of public input and oversight on these controversial vegetation removal projects, the BLM is proposing a new categorical exclusion under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that would allow up to 10,000 acre projects to mechanically remove pinyon pine and juniper trees on public lands with no environmental analysis, public accountability, or public input. 

    We must use this opportunity to remind the BLM why public input is crucial to a rational and science-based decision-making process, provide evidence that the environmental effects of vegetation removal projects vary significantly from project to project, oftentimes causing significant long-term harm to native ecosystems, and make the public voice heard.

    Comments on the proposed categorical exclusion are due April 13th, 2020. Click here to submit comments through our online action center.

    When writing your comments, please consider the following points:

    • 10,000 acre projects are an extremely unreasonable size to categorically exclude from NEPA and public review. This area is larger than many cities. Congress in the past has called for agencies to establish categorical exclusions for some projects up to 4,500 acres in size. BLM’s proposed categorical exclusion is more than double that, with very few limitations on where, when, and how treatments can be conducted.
    • The best available science shows that these projects do have significant environmental effects, making any blanket determination that future projects need not go through the NEPA process because there are no significant environmental effects wildly inappropriate.
    • BLM has misrepresented available scientific research on the effects of these projects in its categorical exclusion proposal, erroneously concluding they have a net positive effect on the ecosystem. This completely excludes science showing that mechanical pinyon pine and juniper removal is overall very harmful for woodland-dependent species, including migratory birds whose populations are already in drastic decline.
    • BLM should not be able to categorically exclude any projects in National Monuments, Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, Wilderness Study Areas, or other special-status public lands. There are many proposed vegetation removal projects in recent years that were removed from these sensitive areas because of public input and engagement. It is improper for BLM to be able to plan, approve, and execute projects using heavy machinery to clearcut native forests in these special management lands with no public oversight and without robust, site-specific environmental analysis.
    • These projects help accelerate climate change by causing large-scale surface disturbance that increases desertification, contributes to atmospheric dust levels, and removes valuable forest carbon sinks. BLM must continue to do project-specific, public, NEPA analysis for pinyon pine and juniper removal projects because of their potential contributions to climate change.
    • BLM has not demonstrated that it has adequately monitored past vegetation removal projects to ensure that the treatments do not cause significant, long-term damage to overall ecosystem health by disturbing and destroying biological soil crust or spreading invasive species like cheatgrass. BLM must provide long-term monitoring data from past projects to demonstrate their success before categorically excluding future projects from NEPA. BLM must make this data publicly available.
    • BLM has not provided any criteria or guidelines in the proposed CX to determine what qualifies as sage-grouse or mule deer habitat, and because there will be no public process, the BLM will not need to justify these determinations. Therefore, the BLM could ostensibly use the proposed CX to remove 10,000 acres of forest wherever it wants with no public accountability. Distressingly, the public may not even know these large-scale projects were happening until after they were completed and the deforestation was irreversible.

    Please consider all of these points as you make your comments, and make sure to add your own! Tell the Bureau of Land Management why large-scale mechanical removal of pinyon pine and juniper forests across the west continues to be a very significant action deserving of careful environmental review and public input.

    >> Click here to submit comments through our online action center (personalize if possible)
    >> Click here to submit comments via the BLM’s web portal (use points above to craft a message in your own words)

    Aftermath of a BLM “mastication” project on Utah public lands. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA

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  • April 1st, 2020

    Twenty-eight redrock volunteers traveled to Capitol Hill in Washington, DC in the waning days of February to participate in our annual Wilderness Week event. Their advocacy will lay the groundwork for the next big step forward in protecting Utah’s magnificent wild lands.

    The purpose of February’s Wilderness Week was to ramp up support for America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act—the flagship legislation for our redrock protection campaign. Coordinated by the Utah Wilderness Coalition, whose leading organizations are SUWA, Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, the 28 volunteers (from Utah and 17 other states) worked together in 12 teams and held 140+ meetings with legislators. Over the course of several days, they crisscrossed Capitol Hill and walked the marble corridors of Congress wearing their highly visible “Protect Wild Utah” buttons.

    2020 Wilderness Week activists in front of the U.S. Capitol.

    With activists’ efforts concentrated on the Emery County bill last year—which permanently protected 663,000 acres of wilderness in Utah’s San Rafael Swell and Desolation and Labyrinth Canyons—reintroduction of the redrock bill got a late start in the 116th Congress. Nevertheless, we’re already up to 74 cosponsors in the House of Representatives and 17 in the Senate. You can click here to see if your representative and senators are among them.

    If any of your elected officials are not listed, click here to ask them to endorse America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act today!

    Just as our Wilderness Week activists were leaving Washington, the coronavirus hit the United States hard. That’s why your emails and calls to Congress are even more crucial today—so that we can sustain the momentum created by these dedicated individuals who volunteered their own personal time to travel to our nation’s capital on behalf of the spectacular landscapes we all love.

    Southern Utah’s national treasures need your support! Please click here to contact your members of Congress today.

    Thank you!

  • March 30th, 2020

    While physical distancing measures to prevent the spread of Coronavirus have kept many people at home, gateway communities at the edge of wild public lands in Utah are hardly catching a break. Residents and healthcare practitioners in places like Moab and Boulder, Utah are doing everything they can to stop the transmission of Coronavirus in their small rural communities – communities particularly vulnerable to stress on healthcare, groceries and other vital resources during a pandemic.

    In this episode of Wild Utah, we are joined by Dr. Dylan Cole, Chief Medical Officer at Moab Regional Hospital, and Blake Spalding, Chef/owner of Hell’s Backbone Grill in Boulder, Utah, to hear more about why staying at home this spring is imperative for their communities.

    Wild Utah is produced by Jerry Schmidt and is made possible by the contributing members of SUWA. Our theme music, “What’s Worth?” was written and performed in Moab by Haley Noel Austin. 

    Listen on your favorite app!

    wildutah.info/Stitcher
    wildutah.info/Apple
    wildutah.info/Spotify

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